- The Washington Times - Friday, March 16, 2001

An eclectic mix of ponytailed Hollywood players and crisply attired Washingtonians converged on the National Museum of Women in the Arts Tuesday to fete actress Christine Lahtis feature directorial debut, "My First Mister."
Flip-flops and power suits. Shaggy sideburns and elegant coiffures.
Washingtons 2001 Best of the Fest, which featured female filmmakers and their supporters, brought East and West Coasters together to support the Sundance Institute and women in the arts.
Miss Lahti said her film, a heartwarming yarn about a troubled teen-age girl and her middle-aged, misfit boss, typifies the kind of project that appeals to her.
"Im really attracted to comedies. Its how life is. Theres always something to laugh about," no matter the tragic consequences, said Miss Lahti, towering over her peers courtesy of her spiky black boots.
"Ive been looking for a script to direct to take me away from my kids and my day job," said Miss Lahti, an Emmy winner who also earned an Oscar in 1995 for her short film "Lieberman in Love."
Though "Mister" boasts Albert Brooks, John Goodman and Leelee Sobieski, its chances for a wider audience brightened when Sundance embraced it.
The low-budget feature, shot in 29 days, opened the 2001 Sundance Film Festival Jan. 18 in Park City, Utah. Paramount Classics will role out the film this summer.
The evening raised funds for the Sundance Institute, which helps develop and showcase independent artists and films, such as "Boys Dont Cry" and "Hoop Dreams."
National Organization for Women President Patricia Ireland said women in the film industry havent made the same kind of progress their peers in elected office have.
Sexual politics aside, independent films "give all of us an alternative," Mrs. Ireland said. They "push the mainstream industry, show theres an audience for these films."
Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, resplendent in red, said female directors often are overlooked, hearkening back to Barbra Streisands Oscar snub for her well-received "Yentl" in 1983.
"I love this theme, and Im thrilled to be here," the lawmaker said of the affair.
Event chairwoman Pat Mitchell, president of the Public Broadcasting Service, said the celebration was the first in what she hopes will be a series of Washington-based parties to support independent films.
Miss Lahtis directorial effort "is typical of the way Sundance will go for a first-time director," she said.
The actress-director, in turn, thanked the audience for supporting her film and praised Sundance for its unflagging efforts on behalf of all filmmakers.
"Sundance has always been gender-blind," she said.


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